United Way SELA – State of Transit

Terri Westerfield, United We Move
Sunday, August 19th
Kirby Nagle and her guests discuss Ride New Orleans, whose mission is to win world-class and equitable public transportation that works for all residents across the New Orleans region.

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

I and hello there I'm Kirby Nagle and this is united way of southeast Louisiana's Lizzie united radio. You're right away fights for the health education and financial stability of every person in every community we serve. We've got a plan to get that done. Our blueprint for prosperity is a laser focused on eradicating poverty but the bold vision of equitable communities are all individuals are healthy. Educated and economically stable. And on the show we're covering the programs collaborations initiatives of volunteerism an advocacy efforts all aimed at eradicating poverty in southeast Louisiana. And joining us on today's show for the first time I guess the executive director of write New Orleans Alex purse or a ski resort ski resort ski okay. Let's see if we can just stumble through Alex thanks so much for coming on with us today again executive director of write New Orleans. How we wanna hear all about writing in morning just for our community. I was a sign off the top the reality is of the work that. Ride is this connected to say 19%. A New Orleans households which is more than twice the national average don't have access to personal vehicle. But the high partly rate in Orleans parish about a quarter of the population most recently. Many other households are just one run about a block away from not having access to vehicles so. Ride it works to change this reality and to win a transit system that will help credit or just equitable and functional city region is that it was pretty. That sounds the sounds really that's the barely scratching. Thanks so much for Carly Alex or Donnie got a dollar at there CES so well tell us tell us more about the right and you're specifically today to talk about it a report that's coming recently. But I'd like to know firfer listeners who aren't familiar until such organization and the work that you do. Absolutely and and thank you again affairs for having me and thank you for the good work the all do we've. We really appreciate thank you we appreciate you. So ride New Orleans is about nine years old at this point we were founded and 2009. Our founding board of directors. Were very interested in in transit and transportation in the region and what it really sparked their interest was. How was the system doing is we came back from the devastation of the storm and you know as they they look it's and at that point it was his four years later it's okay we've had. A couple of years where everything was just recovery recovery recovery and things are going to be slows things are gonna be we're gonna have problems there but. As we were getting more into the rebuilding phase. We weren't seeing transit keeping up with a lot of the population return. And a lot of oil folks really needed to to see is they are moving forward and a lot of the priorities that they saw. We're not what they thought transit riders really needed to see so. They found an organization to really watchdog and educate about the need further. For better transit corridors we've been around her for nine years our work really breaks down into three main areas. It breaks down first ball we have a big grassroots presence we work with riders throughout the city we have. Monthly writer meet up the third Saturday of this month above the whole foods 300 north broad the community space there. We've got buttermilk drops here urged crap but I'm very nice at ten hours into the 38 at everybody's welcome and we we talk about what's going on with the system and a lot of policies that right pushes really come out of those conversations. We also work on specific. Campaigns. To really move transit forward to sort of push that. Push that rock up the hill one piece at a time you know you're never gonna flip the lights and everything's gonna be signage there one moment so who we used for instance. Work to get better policies we can get more bus stops out there more shelters from the rain in the sun that we have in southern Louisiana. The third pieces where a lot of our work comes from. Though is around research man policy analysis of nuts. Sort of the Genesis of why we're here today because the biggest piece of that is an annual report we called the state of transit in New Orleans this comes out. But this time every year this is our our fifth annual report. And just came out last week so that's. It's comprehensive look sort of what's working what's not and from the ride ride perspective and again try to take and what writers want and what best practices for policy says is gonna work best. That's sort of the perspective that week. From test so it sounds like there's a lot on your point. We keep ourselves out of trouble pretty business strike so. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the report I think for our listeners are sharing with you off Mike earlier. You know some of us. Come from backers were not as familiar public transit where others are very familiar so let's kind of lay up based on understanding for folks are tuning in. And I think one of the most interest thinks pieces to this puzzle as a work through this of the challenges is the organization of Orleans parish transit system in and of itself so can you give us a little on background on on how it's organized yeah sue. See Mariah went up. Take a step back if if you look. Beginning of the twentieth century. Well before everybody had a car public transit was really the way that a lot of people. Got around and at that point it was very profitable business because everybody sure is using it so you have a lot of private companies out there that we're doing individual lines or network of lines that's how we got a lot of the initial street cars that we had here in New Orleans. Has so we got further into the twentieth century and more and more folks had cars and public transit became less and less profitable clerks at that point. Became more of a priority to makes. What are called transit authorities in in most areas that are responsible for running transit in the area. We in New Orleans has the New Orleans regional transit authority this is made possible through enabling legislation. Batteries in the early 1980s. And the original intent was to have. The New Orleans region so Orleans parish saint Bernard parish Jefferson Parish saint Tammany parish even a little bit of the river parishes of course. But. Unfortunately at least from transit prospective. The only only jurisdictions that really bought in wholesale to was Orleans parish and also the city of Kenner. Has bought it and so we have sort of a split. Right now throughout the region where transit basically stops at the parish line and he facto for a lot of areas and we don't have the advantage of an economy of scale that you see in a lot of other regions but. The biggest system is that New Orleans RTA. It's. Because this points almost forty lines throughout New Orleans. And a little bit in Kenner as we mentioned in one very infrequent line out to the airport. I. It's run by a eight RGA commissioners. Five of whom are point and a New Orleans and then three of whom are appointed by Jefferson Parish even though you have is that one line in Kenner. But you have that sort of regional focus right there. And that's. Two of the background if that makes an expert for how it all comes together. We and I think at that outlines very clearly some of the challenges right as we talked to stand on the show the difficulties of bringing together different governments and in pair should stick to work toward regional truly regional transit system. So more still getting his background led out first talked to me about the efficiency of our system both. And really operation and an organization a bit. V the system. Had a really had a really hard body blow through it. In in the fighting associated with Hurricane Katrina we had almost 400 buses. Before the storm in 2005. After that we lost over two thirds of our fleet while down to about a 13040. Buses right now. That means. If you calculate the number of weekly transit trips that took place between. Before the storm and now we've only recovered about 50% of the trip is that overall. We've done a lot of investment towards. Street car construction. Since the storm most of that chances. In downtown area. We're very close to the New Orleans CBD. So we've actually recovered over 100%. The street car trips that we had before the storm which is only recovered about 41%. Of the weekly bus trips. And and the bus trips are the bus lines are really the lifeline for a lot of folks out in the community. Drew especially as some of the core areas of New Orleans. In the in the heart in the center of the city get more and more expensive. The the cheaper areas for folks to live end up being further and further away. And that's where the bus lines are are most needed and where we haven't seen a level of recovery that we really need. Well well let's get until the start abrupt reports and I think just early on for folks if you leave through the first few pages and for for folks are listening again. We're talking with the executive director of bright New Orleans and and if you're interested in in checking out the report tell us I'm. Your website addresses and where they can find that. You can find a set right New Orleans all one word dot org does ORG hand the report is gonna be under our analysis section you can see in the main menu right on the top. And I think come. If you are interested at all in this topic today it's certainly worth your time today to go check it out we can only really cover so much today but. As you begin so to look into this your precinct sort of the first things just start outlining. Are the deficiencies with in the system so if he can't take a moment and walk us through I know for folks that are writing I found it very interesting in and bat. Match and moving to read. They're Ryder stories that you had a day in the book they're really again put that face to the deficiencies of folks face. On a daily basis so appreciative to hear from your perspective. Absolutely the before before we do that because the report is generally structured around three main areas what's working. What's not and what we need to do about a perfect so. Sometimes I had. We we we can be hard on the RTA and I think sometimes does deservedly so. Because it's it's an essential service for so many people it's an essential service for working cities so you have to be. Critical there has to be a strong watchdog. Looking out for the public interest on that from as many directions as possible who. But I think it's also important to talk about what's working well but also likened. Yeah let's sort they're absolutely going that direction first as we made actually some some pre need. Impressive progress over the last year. Bad that we really note to start out the report. Both of the really important pieces of progress we've seen arm around. Planning and governance so one of the biggest critiques that right New Orleans had a the RTA and and transit service was. Over the last couple of years we didn't have a long term plan for where we're going again and everything was. Rightfully so for awhile about just recovering from a storm getting back as much as we could firms from what we have lost to him but you get to a certain point you need a strong. And clear long term direction. Your investments are going to be flowing into weird. You've got limited resources out there and you can put the transit so at some point you gotta say okay. What's gonna give me the most bang for the buck and what are my priorities what do what do I need to do. They didn't have this plan over most of 2017. -- the RTA worked with the community to generate a long term plan that's called the strategic mobility plan where it's got a 129. Specific implement global action items without diving too deep into it with the limited time we have little to put everybody to sleep. At this point but. It basically think of it has really specific roadmap for how we wanna move forward that was put together after a lot of good community outreach incorporating what writers and community members were saying so that's. That's really important piece to start out well. The second piece that it's really important that we made a lot of progress on is around. Transparency. And public oversight and who's now a New Orleans has read you the unique situation. For how we we govern our. Our transit system. We have a private company right now that runs absolutely. Everything about the system. Finances. The planning. The maintenance of the buses folks driving the bus none of those actually technically work for the RT AL those individuals are. Work for private company called trans depth. Further now contracting. In transit systems. Super and common people contract out for operation of one line and maybe the maintenance of the fleet. What's unique for New Orleans is that we have one company that does absolutely. Everything the entirety of this system. And we believe that a lot of other folks believe that this has created some vulnerabilities. And some deficiencies in our system and it's not necessarily a slight on the company. That's operating at its more slate on the overall system that was set up what you basically have is an all volunteer board. That's responsible for oversight of this company that has. No particular expertise in transit. And has they'll have day jobs they don't have the time to really focus and you've got a group of well meaning in in very intelligent. Well connected volunteers. Basically trying to over managed in oversee. Company didn't generate seven billion dollars of revenue internationally. It's easier to understand how that's problematic can be problematic. Exactly so. This year though actually just in the last couple of months we have seen the addition and in term executive director for the RT day users typically charged with running the oversight in making sure that board priorities. Are communicated. Properly. To the private company so the private company can do what they do best which is actually just operate transit not worry about the politics of the overall big picture policies. Additional lane the current contract is up at the end of next summer. And this individual this in term executive director is putting together public staff to really make sure we have a robust. Bidding process. So we get a number of other companies coming in to say hey. Maybe we can do a better job here's what we would do here's what it would cost. And that the writers of the system are gonna get the absolute best deal because again I can't stress enough. There's limited resources we can't do everything we once we've got to be careful with every single penny to her we're in a much better position to do that. Right now than we were say six months ago and that's a big big win some one and make sure that both of those were highlighted. On and we also tip our cap to. Not that previous RTA board members were not focused and get in the best deal for writers that there is. A real energy with this new cohort of board of board members that are really focused on reform and seeing what they can do with in the context of this plan so. This has all been a big big step forward but. And there's always and unfortunately about coming on this. This is all pretty big picture stuff I hope I didn't lose too many of the listeners out there is that went into the annoyances of contract thing in planning sure because at the end of the day. The average transit rider is not seeing tangible benefits yet. I think that's the next question what's the experience like today for the average rider and while you've made some significant. Strides toward progress. I'm or you make progress part frankly what's that experience like for the writer is it improving. And the answer to that is it just kind of depends on where your dad so how live over her in the seventh ward. Just off Saint Bernard by Claiborne who got. Today. Coming here to the studio. Walked couple blocks down I got on the Jackson esplanade bus and I got here within fifteen minutes. Unfortunately the neighborhood I live in is getting more and more expensive and a lot of folks can afford to live there especially folks who are reliant on transit. So more and more folks that live hang in New Orleans he still living in Algiers in living in areas where it's a lot harder to serve them with transit so we highway in our report. Woman Naia of one ms. Judy who is out knees to off of me issue who takes the bus every single day to get tough Oxnard and Jefferson highway she's taking. Three buses today it is abroad. Sheath bus or at Lake Forest express and she's transferring. Sues the 39 to invest and then she's transferring at the parish line. To another bus and Jefferson Parish thus the taken the last mile and a half to two miles to get to work I'm good day this is taking care of everything works right. Need be an hour and twenty minutes on. Even a not too bad day it's taking or almost two hours one way just guess work and she's paying. Double fair one fair for the New Orleans RCA one fair for Jefferson right Jefferson transit. So they end result. If you sort of multiplied. Hundreds of stories like this Judy's story. Is that your average. Transit reliant nor and nor Lenny and can only reach 12% of the region's jobs in thirty minutes or less via transit. That same nor lending if they've got a car they can reach 89% of the region's jobs and thirty minutes or less almost the exact inverse. So that is almost. The definition in an equitable. City unfortunate I Mena. I couldn't not almost to be weird it's pretty clear. And it and you suffer folks are familiar with united ways work of course tourist. Talking about our mission which is to eradicate poverty Barrasso talking about another segment of the population I'm we call Alice which is asset limited. Income constrained yet employed. So Alice. Those households that hardworking taxpayers who live paycheck to paycheck but are unable to save and lived just one financial emergency away from Harvard themselves. So. I think actually hit the crushes you talk about someone like this Judy who traverse a such a long. A long way to work every day what happens if she doesn't have. The understanding and forgiving loss that. Says yes it makes complete sense to me that you take all of these bus once again here every day of course there could be just a dream. Fifteen minutes to an hour in and why you're not able to make it on time. Let's say in the hospitality industry that maybe doesn't have an industry like that that's not asked for giving. What are what are those workers facing. The day are facing some real challenges with our transit system we did a survey. Paris workers in partnership with Peres at the beginning of last year and in what we found was. Almost 13 of transit reliant employees for Harris had been late three or more times because of transit in the last month while. And figure. We do land for five. Hopefully not more than that shifts a week. That ends up being. A good chunk of of what you're looking again and again if you've got AA forgiving and understanding. Supervisor. Maybe that's okay by if you don't that's going to be a problem right there. And there are some industries that that can't afford to be that forgiving ramming their reality is if you work and some of some of healthcare hospitality or their initiatives where there reliant on that employee to provide a service. The reality is. In fifteen minutes and our community it's a team being able to take care for their customers are not understand that. And I am a member go back to conversation that was very really stuck with me last summer with some folks from the city of New Orleans to have a program where there. Actually helping. Folks get the general skills. A holding down its. How to interview. All the various key so scarce of course yep exactly and then not help with placement of jobs and what they told me it was if you got someone in New Orleans east they will not even consider placing them in a job in Jefferson Parish. If they don't have a car right simply because it takes too long I don't think it's gonna be reliable enough now you basically. In even split in terms of where the jobs are in our region especially and on this side of the lake cut. Between Jefferson Parish in and Orleans pairs so year almost defectors take me half the jobs. Off the table after opportunities disappears for for transit reliance individuals and I don't have to tell you that's that's gonna end up being a problem. For a lot of folks so let's take a step back if you're just tuning in again we're talking about ride New Orleans their 2018. State of transit. Correct too late and we're looking at. Believe that the state of of public transit in in New Orleans in the region. And so as we just wrapped up the conversation specifically as it pertains to individuals. Making it to their place of work on time relying on public transit. Let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture in Howell. Public transit. You know in a community like ours is tied to our economy if we were to have a fully functioning and equitable public transit system how would that. Grow the economy in our region. You'd be able it's actually you know from. From an economist perspective actually utilize. Write more of your people and that's no. You create wealth that's how you create an economy. Everything working for more people. Means everything is working much better even for the folks for. For whom things are already working all right once you're actually. Able to and have more and more people fully participate and an end date today. Economic life of course if it's very basic. So we we look and in the report. To Wheaton medium and identified this this is a problem and it's been disheartening because we've so views these numbers are not sort of we have use these numbers for the last several years in a row and just have seen. No real movement in terms access to jobs for transit line New Orleans. But again a sad set at the at the outset of talking about this report. Were optimistic because we've seen some some big picture. There are changes that we think is have set the table if you will for changes in in the next couple of years and we think we've got. Got a good chance of being able to do that we've just got to do a couple things. McCracken golds at a. Certain are neck and our last last sold five minute segment here let's. Rural thirty you've outlined in the end than close the report. The steps. To. Really advancing from the congress to cheat scene and I know. You talked about the UTG mobility plan in and making sure we're utilizing that information that it it's provided but I'm from there pretty laid out for us. Definitely so number one it's it's pretty simple this long term plan they are TA is put together that's a very detailed roadmap for moving forward. Just follow it right and almost a million dollars that's pretty some of your money. Putting this plan together when you say your money. That's all of us to add SRS taxpayer's dollar friend or exactly the routier's paid for by a sales tax subscribers two thirds of their operating revenues that's coming from all of us. Well there were using it or not that's another important piece and it right. So we want this to be function for all of us purchases Iran and every day absolutely. So let's follow that plan. And it really important part here is around priorities so we don't have to go chew into that the one thing right or allowances. Been very critical of the RTA over the last couple of years is around. Streetcar expansion. Now we all love street cars. There iconic for a New Orleans. They look great just going through our streets. But the dirty secret is they don't really provide good transit access their almost toy transit the way we've been building them. They don't help people get to where they're going faster. Right now with such a great need we think it's really important to be focused on the bus system and building that up. Unfortunately me over the last six months we've still continue doing a study of a very small expansion of the saint Claude rampart street Carlyle who. And spent almost 700000 dollars doing that which were very critical of in there important. Just want to continue. Pushing on that to make sure that with the limited resources we have we're spending in the right place so that's important. Number two there's going to be a process. Everyone should be aware of that's coming up will we actually have a chance to re imagine our transit network potentially. Change where the lines go to better serve our existing population and where folks need to go. Huge you'll hear more about that it's got very planner ask name that makes people's eyes rolled back in there has tried comprehensive operations analysis of COA for short. But the end result of this is we could be changing some of where our lines go. So writers and community members need to be aware of this process and and take part in some of the meetings coming up so we make sure we get it right the agency gets it right. Other big one is is regional transit we read in the advocate today. That. There is. Gonna be in our tape push to extend the bus line to auction there on Jefferson highway this is a huge deal it would connecting New Orleans CBD. Growing option aside and Jefferson highway two big jobs senators. Ms. Judy who are referenced earlier in the hour this would be an amazing step forward for her Mina. Amazing may be superfluous but it would be a really. Big addition to quality of life for folks like her purse less transfers less time more time to spend with your family and kids. More feasibility for actually take transit so that's big and on the final thing. We really wanna make sure we talk about. It's just ultimately we need to have a conversation about revenue. It's really important. If we're gonna say that transit this parity. Getting folks to economic opportunities and pray and better connecting our communities. That we need to determine. Where that's gonna come from and we think there is a lot of room over the next year for having that conversation in the region and and seeing what makes the most sense moving forward. Well I certainly I think for anyone. Like we said just before we were after we talked about this is not only system for those that are taking an engine at but it is being funded by taxpayer dollar shoring up the folks will. We'll lend their voice to help. Really advance forward some of the work that they you've outlined in the progress that needs to be made. I want you in the last thirty seconds Vito folks again where they can go for your regular meet ups and I think that's a nice dissect for people their voices be heard. Absolutely so again right New Orleans. Or is our website or phone numbers. 504345. 836034583. Six and our regular meet ups our third Saturday of each month the refresh space above the whole foods at 300 north broadened community space. Is buttermilk drops. There's snacks and it's transit riders just talking about what's going on in and what rides priorities over the next month should be so we hope to see many all out there. Yeah actually go out on top with Alex talk and everybody from Iraq from writing New Orleans thanks so much for coming on. We look forward to having you back make sure hopefully we'll be talking about some of the spur such talent. A for more information please visit united way clo dot org and follow us on FaceBook Twitter and answer Graham are searching for the handle united way SE. L eight. As always we encourage you to join you I away by giving and volunteering abdicating in connecting. United way of southeast Louisiana has a blueprint for prosperity. 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